And so my five months in Europe are almost up, and the last thing I have left to experience is meant to give me a good overdose of ultra Dutchness so that I can leave completely sick and tired of this place… right? In Spanish—or in Venezuela at least—we have a word for when you try eat something too rich or sweet and you just can’t take it anymore: empalagar. I think this is what I sort of wanted to get out of my last few days of the Netherlands, so bring on the milkmaids, the klompen, and the Gouda cheese! We’re spending this Kerst at a tulip farm in North Holland!
It all came about when my good Dutch friend, Betty, invited me to come over and spend Christmas with her and her family in the small rural farm town of Andijk. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect of the country, but it was so delightful to see how much things change once you leave the city behind in exchange for the cottages and tractors of open fields, even in Northern Europe.
One thing I noticed was that the train I took out there didn’t even announce the stops along the way—only the final one at the small city of Enkhuizen. Guess you don’t head out there unless you already know where you’re going. Another thing that struck me was that the front entrance to Betty’s house was really bare, even lacking a walkway up to it. It was the back door which was warmly decorated with flowers and other trinkets. Later I would find out that, in town, nobody ever comes to your front door, but rather straight through the back. It’s sort of a general, more personably understanding people have. Only people from larger cities ring the doorbell to make census surveys or something of the sort; “you know when you hear the doorbell that it’s something bad,” said Betty’s father.
I’d love to say we did much else other than watch Christmas movies and stuff our faces with food, but I’d have to lie. This was a Christmas for relaxing and hibernation (two things I’m totally cool with), but Betty’s family was also kind enough to show me around:
This is a “living museum” dedicated to showcasing rural life in 17th Century North Holland. A house or building was moved from every town in the area to create this mock village in which one can go dress and observe what everyday life was like at the time. Unfortunately it was closed for Christmas.
And of course, Kerstdiner! For Christmas dinner we had gourmetten, basically a table full of raw meats and vegetables to be prepared on a raclette grill at the center. I’m a sucker for these gimmicks where you basically end up cooking things yourself, so I was happy.
I can’t really say I’m excited or happy to leave. Some people get really homesick and culture shocked. I’ve complained, sure, but I’ve absolutely loved being put in a new environment and dealing with different kinds of people. Even the mundane things, like going to the grocery store and getting my bicycle tires pumped—all of it has been an absolute adventure, and it’s sad to think that things might not be able to compare anymore once I get home. Not sure what I’ll have to say about it after I get back, but I will say I’m pretty sad to leave.
Guess I’ve got a plane to catch now… probably. 🙂